I decided to count, the other day, all the dogs I have had in my life since I was a baby. There were fifteen memorable canines, ranging from cocker spaniel to beagle, a black lab, a collie, then lots of awesome rescue dogs during my ten years of ranch care taking, and then a series of dachshunds when my second hubby and I united, and ultimately, the final, the queen of all my canine loves, a yellow lab.
At the time Sadie came into my life, I had just lost (horrifically due to a Vet’s mistake), the dachshund that was my soulmate, Mystic. We had her daughter, the pick of her litter from two years earlier, but it was Mystic that I had bonded with so deeply. She was only five years old, and suffered with severe back pain issues. We had agreed to emergency surgery to try to soothe her pain. Mystic was having back surgery and the “worst case scenario” was that she would be paralyzed and would need to use one of those adorable carts to get around, plus lots of human assistance for emptying her bowels and bladder. We were completely prepared for all of that. What we were not prepared for, was a phone call starting with “We are so sorry, but…” I wailed like someone burning to death. I remember it well when the call came in, I was outraged and incredulous. I screamed at the top of my lungs, I could not accept it for awhile. My worst nightmare.
After Mystic’s passing, her daughter (Rita) and I had the time and opportunity to fall in love. Rita got to see her mother in death, something I feel is super important as animals are fully accepting of death, no fear, no avoidance. We brought Mystic home from the Vet’s office to bury her in our yard. Rita excitedly ran up to Mystic when she saw her body lying on the dog bed on the floor. Rita wagged her tail, sniffed Mystic several times, then was completely accepting of the circumstances. There was no mourning, no grief, no sadness. If anything, Rita seemed to be delighted that now she would be able to get all the attention from me that I had been pouring into her mother. We had a delightful time falling more deeply in love with one another.
Then one day, at my favorite coffee shop in San Luis Obispo, a lovely South African woman walked in with a flyer and posted it on the bulletin board. It had several photographs, including one of two gorgeous adult yellow labs with their twelve precious puppies in front of them. My heart was bursting. It was a weak moment. Yellow labs had always been my dream dogs. I have been a swimmer my entire life, since age 4, and the thought of having a dog who loved to swim was enchanting. I instinctively knew I would end up with a yellow lab puppy. My then husband was amazingly supportive even though he really wasn’t fully behind the idea of another puppy with all the challenges and havoc they bring. We had barely survived three dachshund puppies over the years. The damage to our house was substantial from the chewing and other antics caused by rambunctious puppies. He has a big heart though, and he knew he likely was not going to be able to stop me, so we went together to meet the mom and pop dogs and see all the puppies. Conveniently enough, they lived about 5 minutes from us.
I knew I wanted a very mellow dog. I am an easy going person, and I am not happy being with dogs who are hyper or overly needy. A lot of that can be worked through in training, I knew, but still it was important to me that my new puppy be mellow. I was the first person to view the puppies and I was able to take my pick of all twelve of them. I knew I wanted a female, and to my delight, there were six females. Sadie was super mellow and sweet. I fell in love immediately. She was only six weeks old and they could not let me have her for two more weeks, so I had to be patient. I also needed to come up with the finances to purchase her! A side note to all ‘rescue’ and ‘adopt from a shelter’ advocates, please know I whole-heartedly believe in rescuing and have adopted many, many, many dogs and cats over the years and will do so in the future as well. This was all meant to be, as life always proves to be. I decided to sell my kayak and a few other things, making it super easy to buy my new pup.
At the time we brought Sadie home, Rita was two years old and basking in all the attention she was getting from me. Sadie and Rita were about the same size in the beginning, which was adorable. They met at a park, and got along pretty well. I imagine Rita hoped Sadie was going home somewhere else, but that was not the case. Rita was snippy and growling at first, but it took less than a week before they were snuggling together in their kennel at night and became fast friends. I am an avid hiker, and all my dogs get to hike or walk or swim or get some sort of exercise daily. Rita and Sadie were delighted to accompany me. I will never forget Sadie’s exuberance at flying straight up the hills of the fire road that is East Cuesta Ridge, and straight down, like a lunatic. She was so happy, she could not contain herself. Both dogs also enjoyed the beach immensely. Well, maybe Rita didn’t enjoy the beach so much as tolerate it. Sadie would be IN the water chasing a frisbee or a stick or a ball, with Rita about twenty feet from the surface of the water. So cute. Sadie and I eventually swam together and Rita would keep her distance, never once taking an eye off of us.
It was hysterical to watch Sadie grow. We swore she grew several inches every night. There is something about labs, they grow enormously their first year, and they are amazing athletes. Sadie quickly towered over Rita, and the two were quite the pair. I had the best of both worlds, the large and small of it. They became best buddies, always together, always playing and cuddling and adoring each other. Sadie was Alfa dog when it came to food, Rita was Alfa dog when it came to attention. Rita did not like me to give more attention to Sadie, she would growl and threaten Sadie with a viscous voice. I always corrected her aggressive behavior immediately, but it was clear Rita had no desire for Sadie to get the majority of my attention. Fair enough.
The very sad day came last December when it was time to let Rita go. At sixteen and a half, she had a lot of discomfort from several different ailments, and as stoic as she always was, she was obviously suffering. I had Hospice Vets come to the house and do the euthanasia with Sadie fully present. Sadie was funny, practically placing herself in the laps of the two wonderful women, acting as though she never received love or attention and was starving for it. Rita was her sweet self, inwardly aware, I think, that she was going to get the relief she needed. It was incredibly loving, sweet, peaceful, and perfect. Sadie knew what was coming from the first injection of anesthesia, she backed off and distanced herself. We buried Rita in a beautiful grave in the backyard and Sadie and I finally had the love fest we had been awaiting, for four solid months.
Sadie was my spirit dog. Throughout my entire first year of sobriety, Sadie was my guardian angel, always there for me, always keeping an eye on me, always giving me her unconditional love. During my phases of COVID anxiety and depression, then later during my sober depression, Sadie was my best girl. I always called her “Beautiful Girl”, which shortened to “Boo-foo Girl” and I absolutely adored her. We had four months of deep connection with no sharing my love with another beast. It was just me and Sadie, and we were connected at the hip, so to speak. I always imagined that if I were a dog, I would be a Yellow Lab. The athleticism, the love of water, the happy spirit, the joie de vivre – I would be a yellow lab for sure. Sadie was me in canine wrapping. And she knew me so well.
When I awoke last Friday to see Sadie’s enormous tumor under her throat, which had very suddenly appeared overnight, I wanted to die. I knew this was the day. I had just celebrated my one year of sobriety the night before with a dear friend at a delightful restaurant, and somehow, as attuned as she always was to my sensitive soul, Sadie knew she could move on now. No doubt she missed her Bestie Rita, and after fourteen and a half years of life on Planet Earth she had experienced all she needed to experience. She had given her heart to me and now it was her time to say goodbye. I was a basket case. As hard as I had tried to prepare for this day, this action, I was devastated despite knowing it was inevitable. This was my dream dog, my best friend in the world, my shadow. Oh my God, I could not imagine life without Sadie.
The morning was chaotic with five phone calls attempting to find a Hospice Vet who would come out. Sadie’s mobility was limited, she weighed about one hundred pounds, and I did not want her to go through any trauma, so to me it was essential she ‘cross over’ at home. But that wasn’t going to happen. Hours of phone calls and panic and sorrow were setting in and Sadie could hardly breathe, she was bleeding slightly and drooling mucus, in severe discomfort. But, low and behold, she still ate every morsel of her final breakfast. That was a real bond between Sadie and me, we LOVED to eat! Foodies through and through.
I finally was able to secure a Vet who would euthanize Sadie at their clinic nearby, a clinic that had treated Sadie numerous times. They assured me she could lie on her doggy bed in the sunshine on their patio outside, and that it would be quiet and peaceful. What other choice did I have? So I made some phone calls to get help lifting her into my car, cleared out everything in the back of my Subaru Outback but her favorite orthopedic doggy bed, was able to get help loading her in my car, grabbed a box of Kleenex and a big bag of her favorite jerky dog treats, and off we went.
Sadie’s passing was a beautiful experience. The Vets were Angels, incredibly compassionate, kind, and caring. I sat next to Sadie and poured my love out to her, assuring her that she had been the BEST DOG EVER, and that I loved her so very, very much. My tears were a fountain pouring down on her. She ate constantly until she could no longer chew, and she passed over to the Rainbow Bridge with the last treat still in her mouth. That made me laugh, my chowhound dog taking her last breath with food in her mouth. Maybe I will do the same when my time comes. Ha.
Thank you, dear Sadie, for fourteen and a half years of love, travel (Sadie LOVED the snow, I wish I had taken her more often!), all sorts of fun, plenty of trauma (twice she barely lived through Sadie-initiated ordeals totaling around fifteen grand in Vet bills), endless adventures, nature outings, and quiet times shared. You truly were my number one favorite dog, and you have a huge piece of my heart. Someday these tears will stop flowing, but I know with each tear, comes gratitude for all the sweetness we shared. You were my Angel dog, my precious soulmate, my ME in disguise. I love you so much. I always will. Have a blast with Rita and all my other doggy darlings, and I will see you again someday.